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Plenty of stars on ice at the Brier in St. John's

In this March 13, 2016 file photo, Alberta skip Kevin Koe looks over the shoulder of his Newfoundland and Labrador counterpart, Brad Gushue, during the final of the 2016 Brier Canadian men’s curling championship in Ottawa. Koe and Alberta won 9-5 to earn the right to return to this year’s Brier, beginning Saturday at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, as Team Canada. Gushue and his rink are also back as part of what I seen as a stacked roster of Brier teams.
In this March 13, 2016 file photo, Alberta skip Kevin Koe looks over the shoulder of his Newfoundland and Labrador counterpart, Brad Gushue, during the final of the 2016 Brier Canadian men’s curling championship in Ottawa. Koe and Alberta won 9-5 to earn the right to return to this year’s Brier, beginning Saturday at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, as Team Canada. Gushue and his rink are also back as part of what I seen as a stacked roster of Brier teams.

Brad Gushue and Co. will part of what will be another extremely deep field vying for the historic Brier Tankard this week as the Canadian men’s curling championship returns to St. John’s for the first time since 1972.

And just how much experience is in the 12-team, Tim Hortons Brier round-robin draw?
Hitting the ice will be 14 previous Brier winners, and nine Olympic gold medalists.
This will mark the 88th Brier, won 27 times each by teams from Alberta and Manitoba.
Newfoundland has only one Brier championship, won back in 1976 by the Jack MacDuff foursome from St. John’s.
What’s at stake in the Brier is $71,000 — $55,000 from the prize pool as champion, $9,600 for Curling Canada’s Excellence Program and $6,400 from Curling Canada’s Athlete Assistance Fund. There’s also a berth as Team Canada into the 2017 world championship next month in Edmonton, $10,000 for Tim Hortons cresting at the worlds, plus the opportunity to sell another cresting position for a minimum of $10,000.
The 2017 Brier winner will also get an automatic berth as Team Canada into the 2018 championship in Regina, receive $20,000 from Curling Canada for promotional personal appearances for the 2017-18 season, Sport Canada funding of $144,000 over two years ($1,500 per player per month) and a berth into the 2017 Canadian Olympic Trials next December in Ottawa, if there is a medal won at the 2017 worlds.
 
Here’s a glance at the teams competing:

2017 Tim Hortons Brier field
Teams listed in order of skip, third, second, lead, alternate, coach

Newfoundland & Labrador — Bally Haly Country Club & Re/Max Centre, St. John’s Curling Club
• Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker, Jules Owchar (coach)


This is Gushue’s 14th Brier, and Nichols’s 13th, including two with Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton.
The two have played in two Brier finals, including the 2016 championship against eventual winner Kevin Koe.
Gallant skipped P.E.I. to victory in the 2009 Canadian juniors, then captured a silver medal in the 2009 world juniors at Vancouver. Walker is also a former Canadian and world junior champ, playing third for Charley Thomas out of Alberta.

Team Canada — The Glencoe Club, Calgary
• Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert, Scott Pfeifer, John Dun
n

Koe is making his fourth straight Brier appearance. In addition to coming in as reigning Brier champs, Koe and Co. won the world championship last spring in Basel, Switzerland.
Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert were part of Kevin Martin’s Olympic gold medal team in 2010.

Alberta — Saville Community Sports Centre, Edmonton
• Brendan Bottcher, Darren Moulding, Bradley Thiessen, Karrick Martin, Evan Asmussen, Kevin Martin


The young squad is making its Brier debut, though Bottcher has big-game experience after winning the 2012 Canadian and world junior championships.
Lead Karrick Martin is the son of curling legend Kevin Martin, the team’s coach.  

British Columbia — Vernon Curling Club & Kelowna Curling Club
• John Morris (third stones), Jim Cotter (fourth stones), Tyrel Griffith, Rick Sawatsky, David Harper, Jody Epp


This team lost the final of the 2013 Olympic Trials to Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, who went on to win gold the next year in Sochi, Russia. Then the team finished second again, at the Brier in Kamloops, B.C.
Morris, making his 10th Brier appearance — he’s won three times —  has rejoined the squad this season. Morris also curled for Martin in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Manitoba — Fort Rouge Curling Club, Winnipeg
• Mike McEwen, B.J. Neufeld, Matt Wozniak, Denni Neufeld, Chris Neufeld (coach)


McEwen’s team made their Brier debut last season, went 8-3 and reached the 3-4 Page Playoff game before losing to Kevin Koe.
The team is one of the strongest foursomes on the World Curling Tour, placing atop the money list four of the past five years.

New Brunswick –Capital Winter Club, Fredericton
• Mike Kennedy, Scott Jones, Marc LeCocq, Jamie Brannen, Spencer Mawhinney, Grant Odishaw


At 47.75 years old, on average, the New Brunswickers are the oldest team in the field.
LeCocq is making his seventh Brier appearance, Kennedy his sixth.
 
Northern Ontario — Community First Curling Centre, Sault Ste. Marie
• Brad Jacobs, Ryan Fry, E.J. Harnden, Ryan Harnden, Lee Toner, Caleb Flaxey


Jacobs and Co. won the 2013 Brier, then won the 2013 Olympic Trials. And captured Canada’s third straight Olympic gold medal in Russia.
Last year in Ottawa, Jacobs was 11-0 in the round-robin, but lost the Page 1-2 game 7-6 to Gushue in an extra end, and then the semifinal 6-5  to Kevin Koe, giving up two in the 10th end.
Fry is a former member of Gushue’s team.

Northwest Territories — Yellowknife Curling Centre
• Jamie Koe, Chris Schille, Brad Chorostkowski, Robert Borden, Greg Skauge, Terry Shea


Koe is the younger brother of Kevin Koe, and is making his 11th Brier appearance. Koe was 7-6 in 2012, and made the playoffs.
Like Casey and Fry, Schille is another who once played with Gushue at the Brier,

*Nova Scotia — Halifax Curling Club
Jamie Murphy, Jordan Pinder, Scott Saccary, Phil Crowell, Alan Darragh, Bruce Lohnes


Nova Scotia won the first Brier in 1927, but things haven’t been going so well of late. For the third straight year, Nova Scotia will need to advance to the main draw via the pre-qualifier competition, which began Thursday night at Mile One.

*Nunavut — Iqaluit Curling Club
• Jim Nix, Edmund MacDonald, Greg Howard, Darryl McGrath, Howard Fick, Donalda Mattie


Nunavut is also trying to advance out of the pre-qualifier. Skip Jim Nix lives in Nova Scotia, while Darryl McGrath, 37, hails from Fogo Island.

Ontario — St. George’s Golf and Country Club, Toronto
• Glenn Howard, Richard Hart, David Mathers, Scott Howard, Adam Spencer (alternate)


Future Hall of Famer Glenn Howard is making a record 17th Brier appearance. He won four Briers as third for his brother, Russ, and two more as a skip. He won the worlds each of those years.
Scott Howard, the 26-year-old lead, is Glenn’s son.
Richard Hart has also enjoyed a fine career. A 1998 Olympic silver medallist when playing third for Canada’s Mike Harris, Hart will make his ninth Brier appearance. He was also Howard’s third from 2006-2011, a run that included a 2007 Brier and world title, four Brier runner-up finishes and one third place finish.

*Prince Edward Island — Charlottetown Curling Complex
• Eddie MacKenzie, Sean Ledgerwood, Matt Nabuurs, Robbie Doherty, Phil Gorveatt, Al Ledgerwood


A other pre-qualifying entry.MacKenzie has played in four Briers - skipping in 2011, 2013 and 2014, and playing third for Mike Gaudet back in 1994.

Quebec — Etchemin Curling Club, Lévis
• Jean-Michel Ménard, Martin Crête, Éric Sylvain, Philippe Ménard, Pierre Charette, Bob Ménard


Not to be overlooked, Menard returns for his 11th Brier. He won the 2006 Brier in Regina, upsetting Glenn Howard in the final. Menard won a silver in the worlds after losing to Scotland’s David Murdoch in the final.

Saskatchewan — Highland Curling Club, Regina
• Adam Casey, Catlin Schneider, Shaun Meachem, Dustin Kidby, Jamie Schneider, Pat Simmons


Casey hails from P.E.I., but is skipping a Saskatchewan team for the first time. He played second for Gushue in three other Briers. Schneider, Meachem and Kidby make their Brier debuts.

* Yukon — Whitehorse Curling Club
• Craig Kochan (third stones), Jon Solberg (fourth stones), Ray Mikkelsen (vice-skip), Darrin Fredrickson, Wade Scoffin, Larry Snow


The final pre-qualifying team. Kochan has represented Northern Ontario in several nationals, skipping at the 2011 Canadian mixed and in the 1987, 1988 and 1989 Canadian juniors, winning a silver medal in ‘88.

Files from Curling Canada

*  Playing in pre-qualifier to determine which team advances to main draw

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